Astronomers discover cataclysmic variable with shortest orbit to date

(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a double star with an extremely short orbit. Scientists believe that the detected system is a cataclysmic variable.

A cataclysmic variable occurs when two stars approach each other over billions of years, causing the white dwarf to start consuming matter from its companion star.

The newly discovered system, which the team has named ZTF J1813+4251, is a cataclysmic variable with the shortest orbit discovered to date. The stars of ZTF J1813+4251 revolve around each other in 51 minutes.

Using simulations, the researchers found that the stars are currently in a transitional state, and that the sun-like star donates most of its hydrogen atmosphere to the voracious white dwarf.

After 70 million years, the stars migrate even closer together, with an ultrashort orbit reaching just 18 minutes before they begin to drift apart.

Decades ago, researchers at MIT and elsewhere predicted that such cataclysmic variables would move into ultrashort orbits. This is the first time that such a transitional system has been observed directly.

Astronomers have discovered a new system in a vast catalog of stars observed by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) instrument, which uses a camera attached to the Palomar Observatory Telescope in California to capture high-resolution images of wide swaths of the sky.

ZTF J1813+4251 is a system located approximately 3,000 light years from Earth, in the constellation Hercules.

Scientists have found that the first object is a white dwarf, 1/100 the size of the Sun and half the mass of the sun.

The second object is a sun-like star the size of Jupiter and a mass 10 times smaller than the Sun. The period of revolution of the stars is 51 minutes – this is the minimum known value for such a pair.

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